Largest Navies In The World 2021

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While the vast majority of human civilization is land-based, we cannot escape the fact that the Earth is 71% water. With such an overwhelming abundance of seas, rivers and lakes, it’s no surprise that civilizations have been feuding over sea passages and strategic water-based territory since before the Bronze Age. In an attempt to more convincingly preside over these territories, some nations have strived to improve their naval technology and rule the seas. Today, the world boasts some truly magnificent fleets.

Before comparing modern fleets, it would be productive to revisit history in order to properly calibrate what constitutes an impressive navy. The largest naval fleet of all time belonged to the United States during World War II. At its peak, the US navy consisted of 6,768 vessels. In all likelihood, this record will never be broken as fleets have been gradually shrinking and consolidating since.

At present, North Korea’s navy, the Korean People’s Army Naval Force (KPANF) is the world’s largest by total active assets. The isolated East Asian nation possesses a total of 967 vessels, including 438 patrol boats, 86 submarines, 25 mine-warfare vessels, 10 frigates and more. Although North Korea’s total naval assets exceed second placed China by over 200, the KPANF is not nearly as powerful as it’s ranking would suggest.

In the 21st century, the primary focus of the North Korean military has been ballistic, long-ranged missiles. The navy has received limited funding and resources during this time. In 2020, the entire North Korean military had a budget of approximately $3.6 billion. While still a very large figure, KPANF spending is not in the same ballpark as some of the other contenders. As a result, most of North Korea’s navy consists of largely outdated Soviet or Chinese-built vessels. Additionally, the KPANF is considered a “brown-water” navy, meaning it is most effective in rivers, lakes, and coastlines, and would fare far less well on the open sea. Although North Korea’s navy is technically the largest in the world, it would be quite naive to say that their navy is the strongest.

The world’s largest navies by total active naval assets:

North Korea (967) China (714) United States (415) Iran (398) Russia (352) Egypt (319) India (295) Finland (270) Colombia (234) Indonesia (221)

The aforementioned Chinese navy ranks second in total naval assets. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) presides over 714 vessels including 220 patrol boats, 73 submarines, 29 mine-warfare vessels, 50 frigates and more. Although China has fewer total assets, their ships are more modern and constantly improving. The PLAN also employs around 240,000 personnel up from North Korea’s 60,000 personnel.

The United States has the largest navy by personnel, with over 400,000 actively enlisted. The United States also holds a distant third place by fleet size, consisting of 415 total assets. The United States spends more on their navy than any other country in the world, with an annual budget of $161.04, which is about 45 times as much as North Korea spends on their entire military. In reality, however, the United States has a very strong case for the world’s strongest navy.

One deficiency of evaluating naval strength based strictly on asset count is that it doesn’t weigh the different kinds of ships properly against one another. For example, the United States has 11 active aircraft carriers, more than any other country by a wide margin. The average aircraft carrier is around 1,100 feet long (comparable to 3 football fields in size), weighs 90,000 tons and costs around $13 billion to produce. At capacity, one of these behemoths can carry up to 90 small aircraft at once. On the flip side, patrol boats (which comprise the majority of the KPANF) are often just 100 feet long and cost just $25-50 million for state-of-the-art models. However, on a list that considers assets above all else, these ships have the same value: one asset.

Given this glaring shortcoming, perhaps there is a better way to evaluate naval size. One way that may more closely align with presumed naval strength would be to do so by tonnage, the total combined weight of a navy’s fleet. When considering tonnage, an aircraft carrier (90,000 tons) is worth approximately 1,250 patrol boats (72 tons). By tonnage, the United States dwarfs the rest of the world, possessing a fleet tonnage of approximately 3,415,893 tons. This figure is greater than the combined sum of the next thirteen heaviest navies. North Korea doesn’t crack the top ten in terms of tonnage, but China and Russia retain high-ranking spots.

The world’s largest navies by tonnage:

Largest Navies In The World 2021

Rank Country 2021 Population
1China1,444,216,107
2India1,393,409,038
3United States332,915,073
4Indonesia276,361,783
5Pakistan225,199,937
6Brazil213,993,437
7Nigeria211,400,708
8Bangladesh166,303,498
9Russia145,912,025
10Mexico130,262,216
11Japan126,050,804
12Ethiopia117,876,227
13Philippines111,046,913
14Egypt104,258,327
15Vietnam98,168,833
16Dr Congo92,377,993
17Turkey85,042,738
18Iran85,028,759
19Germany83,900,473
20Thailand69,950,850
21United Kingdom68,207,116
22France65,426,179
23Tanzania61,498,437
24Italy60,367,477
25South Africa60,041,994
26Kenya54,985,698
27Myanmar54,806,012
28South Korea51,305,186
29Colombia51,265,844
30Uganda47,123,531
31Spain46,745,216
32Argentina45,605,826
33Sudan44,909,353
34Algeria44,616,624
35Ukraine43,466,819
36Iraq41,179,350
37Afghanistan39,835,428
38Canada38,067,903
39Poland37,797,005
40Morocco37,344,795
41Saudi Arabia35,340,683
42Uzbekistan33,935,763
43Angola33,933,610
44Peru33,359,418
45Malaysia32,776,194
46Mozambique32,163,047
47Ghana31,732,129
48Yemen30,490,640
49Nepal29,674,920
50Venezuela28,704,954
51Madagascar28,427,328
52Cameroon27,224,265
53Ivory Coast27,053,629
54North Korea25,887,041
55Australia25,788,215
56Niger25,130,817
57Taiwan23,855,010
58Sri Lanka21,497,310
59Burkina Faso21,497,096
60Mali20,855,735
61Malawi19,647,684
62Chile19,212,361
63Romania19,127,774
64Kazakhstan18,994,962
65Zambia18,920,651
66Syria18,275,702
67Guatemala18,249,860
68Ecuador17,888,475
69Senegal17,196,301
70Netherlands17,173,099
71Cambodia16,946,438
72Chad16,914,985
73Somalia16,359,504
74Zimbabwe15,092,171
75Guinea13,497,244
76Rwanda13,276,513
77Benin12,451,040
78Burundi12,255,433
79Tunisia11,935,766
80Bolivia11,832,940
81Belgium11,632,326
82Haiti11,541,685
83South Sudan11,381,378
84Cuba11,317,505
85Dominican Republic10,953,703
86Czech Republic10,724,555
87Greece10,370,744
88Jordan10,269,021
89Azerbaijan10,223,342
90Portugal10,167,925
91Sweden10,160,169
92Honduras10,062,991
93United Arab Emirates9,991,089
94Tajikistan9,749,627
95Hungary9,634,164
96Belarus9,442,862
97Papua New Guinea9,119,010
98Austria9,043,070
99Israel8,789,774
100Switzerland8,715,494
101Serbia8,697,550
102Togo8,478,250
103Sierra Leone8,141,343
104Hong Kong7,552,810
105Laos7,379,358
106Paraguay7,219,638
107Libya6,958,532
108Bulgaria6,896,663
109Lebanon6,769,146
110Nicaragua6,702,385
111Kyrgyzstan6,628,356
112El Salvador6,518,499
113Turkmenistan6,117,924
114Singapore5,896,686
115Denmark5,813,298
116Republic Of The Congo5,657,013
117Finland5,548,360
118Norway5,465,630
119Slovakia5,460,721
120Oman5,223,375
121Palestine5,222,748
122Liberia5,180,203
123Costa Rica5,139,052
124Ireland4,982,907
125Central African Republic4,919,981
126New Zealand4,860,643
127Mauritania4,775,119
128Panama4,381,579
129Kuwait4,328,550
130Croatia4,081,651
131Moldova4,024,019
132Georgia3,979,765
133Eritrea3,601,467
134Uruguay3,485,151
135Mongolia3,329,289
136Bosnia And Herzegovina3,263,466
137Jamaica2,973,463
138Armenia2,968,127
139Qatar2,930,528
140Albania2,872,933
141Puerto Rico2,828,255
142Lithuania2,689,862
143Namibia2,587,344
144Gambia2,486,945
145Botswana2,397,241
146Gabon2,278,825
147Lesotho2,159,079
148North Macedonia2,082,658
149Slovenia2,078,724
150Guinea Bissau2,015,494
151Latvia1,866,942
152Bahrain1,748,296
153Equatorial Guinea1,449,896
154Trinidad And Tobago1,403,375
155Timor Leste1,343,873
156Estonia1,325,185
157Mauritius1,273,433
158Cyprus1,215,584
159Swaziland1,172,362
160Djibouti1,002,187
161Fiji902,906
162Reunion901,686
163Comoros888,451
164Guyana790,326
165Bhutan779,898
166Solomon Islands703,996
167Macau658,394
168Luxembourg634,814
169Montenegro628,053
170Western Sahara611,875
171Suriname591,800
172Cape Verde561,898
173Maldives543,617
174Malta442,784
175Brunei441,532
176Belize404,914
177Guadeloupe400,020
178Bahamas396,913
179Martinique374,745
180Iceland343,353
181Vanuatu314,464
182French Guiana306,448
183New Caledonia288,218
184Barbados287,711
185French Polynesia282,530
186Mayotte279,515
187Sao Tome And Principe223,368
188Samoa200,149
189Saint Lucia184,400
190Guam170,179
191Curacao164,798
192Kiribati121,392
193Micronesia116,254
194Grenada113,021
195Saint Vincent And The Grenadines111,263
196Aruba107,204
197Tonga106,760
198United States Virgin Islands104,226
199Seychelles98,908
200Antigua And Barbuda98,731
201Isle Of Man85,410
202Andorra77,355
203Dominica72,167
204Cayman Islands66,497
205Bermuda62,090
206Marshall Islands59,610
207Northern Mariana Islands57,917
208Greenland56,877
209American Samoa55,100
210Saint Kitts And Nevis53,544
211Faroe Islands49,049
212Sint Maarten43,412
213Monaco39,511
214Saint Martin39,234
215Turks And Caicos Islands39,231
216Liechtenstein38,250
217San Marino34,017
218Gibraltar33,698
219British Virgin Islands30,421
220Palau18,169
221Cook Islands17,565
222Anguilla15,117
223Tuvalu11,931
224Wallis And Futuna11,094
225Nauru10,876
226Saint Barthelemy9,907
227Saint Pierre And Miquelon5,766
228Montserrat4,977
229Falkland Islands3,533
230Niue1,619
231Tokelau1,373
232Vatican City800

Largest Navies In The World 2021